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Wind producers need no further incentives, senator tells EPA

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., wants the Obama administration to reconsider a proposal to provide new incentives to wind power producers through the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Energy Incentive Program. Instead, the administration should support nuclear power as a clean form of energy, he said.

Wind energy producers already have the wind production tax credit, which was extended by Congress last December and has been in place for more than two decades, the Tennessee senator said in an Aug. 2 letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

“Wind developers have been getting rich on the backs of taxpayers and the wind production tax credit for over two decades, and there is no reason they should receive additional incentives to build unreliable and unsightly wind turbines,” Alexander wrote.

“Already, federal incentives for wind distort some electric power markets by giving wind an unfair advantage over other, more reliable and cost-competitive forms of electricity generation,” he told McCarthy. “The subsidy for Big Wind is already so generous that, at times, wind producers can give away their electricity and still make a profit.”

Under the EPA’s Clean Energy Incentive Program, the EPA and states would provide early action credits for wind power producers, which could then sell these credits to other carbon-emitting power producers, according to an Aug. 2 press release issued by Alexander’s office.

The news release added that, according to an estimate by the Joint Committee on Taxation, the wind production tax credit – which will be in place through 2019 – will cost taxpayers more than $20 billion over 10 years.

The Clean Energy Incentive Program “picks winners and losers because it fails to provide any incentive for nuclear energy – this country’s largest source of clean electricity,” Alexander wrote in his letter to McCarthy. “Nuclear power provides over 60 percent of our carbon-free electricity and is available 92 percent of the time. Wind provides only 15 percent of our carbon-free electricity, and that’s only when the wind blows – which is only about 35 percent of the time, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and usually occurs at night, when we don’t need more electricity.”

“If reliable, cheap, and clean electricity is the goal, then nuclear energy should be incentivized instead of giant wind turbines that produce a puny amount of electricity at a great cost to taxpayers,” the senator said.

In June, the EPA proposed changes and clarifications to the Clean Energy Incentive Program, an optional program under the agency’s Clean Power Plan. The proposal was published in the June 30 Federal Register and is open for public comment until Sept. 2 (the original deadline was Aug. 29, but last month the EPA extended the comment period until Sept. 2).

The American Public Power Association has told the EPA that all zero-emitting generating technology, including nuclear, should be eligible for early action credits under the program.